For young adults, college is a place of learning — but what you learn isn’t simply limited to a classroom. Learning how to create and stick to a solid budget is one of the most important steps in becoming a full-fledged adult, and there’s no better time to start than when you’re still on your way to the working world. If you take on a job in college, understanding how much you earn every month and how you spend it is crucial in determining your financial comfort, and will help you in the future.
Here are a few great budgeting hacks that any college student can use:
- If you don’t have an income, avoid using credit cards. It’s not uncommon to see credit card companies advertising on college campuses with vendors signing up students for their first card. However, credit cards aren’t free money, and if you aren’t working, you might find it hard to pay your monthly bill, and this can affect your credit score early on. If you’re using student loans, additional debt can take a toll on your budget.
- Create a spreadsheet for your monthly budget. This is probably the best way to visualize your monthly income — whether it be from a job, student loans, grants, or from family — and your monthly expenditures. You can easily create a basic spreadsheet using Microsoft Office or Google Sheets, and both programs offer a number of templates to help you get started. If you’re looking to create a budget plan using a smartphone or tablet, there are a number of financial apps that can help you outline your monthly budget.
- Avoid takeout and cook your own food if you can. While this can be a bit more tricky if you live in a dorm, grocery shopping and cooking your own food can save you a lot of money every month. If you have a kitchen, stock up on the basics and buy perishables as you need them so you can cut down on possible food waste. Buying snacks that you can take to campus can also help you avoid spending needless money on the go.
- Don’t use your debit card for “fun” spending — withdraw cash instead. If you know you like to go out every so often, account for it in your budget, and pay for those fun expenditures with cash. It’s easy to swipe your card as you go, but it’s also easy to let debit or credit card charges rack up without checking your account balances. When you use cash for “fun” spending, you can actually see how much money is left in your wallet, so you can avoid overspending.